Page Collection for ^2008-01

2008-01-01 Printing from Emacs on OSX

I built Emacs from source on my old iBook running Mac OS 10.3.9. I really liked the print dialog in CarbonEmacsPackage. Here’s how to get it back:

  1. Get mac-print-mode.el and put it on your LoadPath.
  2. Get htmlize.el and put it in your LoadPath.
  3. Get coral 1.1
    1. copy bin/ into /Applications
    2. copy bin/coral into /usr/local/bin and edit it so that it calls /Applications/
  4. Add the following to your .emacs:
(when (require 'mac-print-mode nil t)
  (mac-print-mode 1)
  (global-set-key (kbd "M-p") 'mac-print-buffer))

Now M-p should automatically export the current page as HTML and produce a nice Mac OS print dialog that prints it.


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2008-01-02 One On One Roleplaying

Yesterday evening I started to play Star of Olindor by Expeditious Retreat Press. It’s free this month only from YourGamesNow. It takes place in a nondescript city. I decided to move it to Bard’s Gate by Necromancer Games because I know that Claudia likes to pour over maps and explore the various pubs and powers that be. First she copied the pregen stats on to a character sheet and renamed the rogue to Flax, and we talked about the various new skills and feats (she’s been playing a sorceress until now). Then we unfolded the map and picked a building for her guild (the pregen is a level eight rogue, so I said that she must be very close to taking over the guild herself as I’m a strong believer in “name levels” [1]. Well, I guess I just wish my players liked building strongholds, establishing guilds or temples.

But back to the game. The city is locked down because of some sort of plague. We had some roleplay at a pub, and finally father Arden shows up and the contract is negotiated. We had to stop when Flax left the temple grounds because it was nearly 4:00 in the morning.


Comments on 2008-01-02 One On One Roleplaying

Sounds like the kind of adventure I’d like too. Downloading it now.

I’m a big fan of Name levels too; they recognise that the dynamic of the game needs to change around that point, and does it in a dramatic fashion by adding politics, property and prestige (PPP) into the mix. I feel that if your 12th level Fighter is still just bashing around in dungeons, something is missing. Old-style D&D knew that; maybe 4th Edition will to. I dunno.

GreyWulf 2008-01-02 16:38 UTC

Unfortunately, I don’t think my powergamers are interested in a change of game dynamics. I think they just want to check out all those new powers and finally put them to some use. Once we’ve played some adventure paths, we’ll maybe all come to the conclusion that the old Basic & Expert was not all bad… :)

Then again, I must be the only one in my group who likes the idea of rolling 3d6, in order, for abilities.

AlexSchroeder 2008-01-03 01:12 UTC

Negative… I present Kubo San as an example of a power-gamer’s character which is actively trying to establish himself in the hearts and minds of the populous. I’ve been looking at the Leadership feat with some interest. I’d probably have to dismiss the animal companion for it, but even so…

– Marco 2008-01-03 17:32 UTC

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2008-01-07 Unsubscribe

I unsubscribed from some interesting political blogs I’m not reading. Maybe you want to pick them up? I’d feel better if somebody else kept reading them.

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2008-01-08 Forums Go Bonkers

With the built-in delay to the OGL for D&D 4th ed. and the USD 5000 price tag on the license to publish close to Wizards of the Coast they are trying to make sure that only big names participate at the beginning, hoping that big budget = big names = better quality. Interesting times! :)

You must have seen it online if you’re a regular reader of any D&D related forum: D&D 4th Edition System Reference Document and OGL Designer’s Kit. Here, WotC, have some pagerank!

I’m sure if you look at the forums you’ll see them going bonkers all over the place. I looked at the OpenDesign thread To 4E or not to 4E? and I expect EN World to have more info as well. Check it out: WotC announces plans for 4e SRD and OGL.

Ok, since this post only points out the obvious, it must qualify as most useless post of 2008 for the time being. Maybe I’ll add some thoughts of my own tomorrow.


Comments on 2008-01-08 Forums Go Bonkers

Interesting times, indeed. The thing is, I’m still none the wiser what’s going to be in the 4th Edition SRD. It sounds to me like there’s going to be guidelines and page references back to the Player’s Handbook, and not much else. Unless I’m reading it wrong, or it changes, or whatever.

That’s not to knock it though; there was a genuine concern that !WoTC could close the entire system off with 4th Edition meaning other companies were screwed when it came to creating variant rules books. It’s good to see that’s not going to happen, and I like that they’re taking control of who gets first pick; one thing lacking from the 3rd Edition version of the SRD/OGL was any kind of quality control. It looks like that’s in place here.

I’m very, very excited about Necromancer Games’ plans for 4th Edition; that’s one thing which might enourage me to switch.

Oh, and the news about a revised d20 Modern in 2009 is terrific!

Happy New Year too, Alex :)

greywulf 2008-01-09 10:08 UTC

Well, ENWorld doesn’t seem to be going that bonkers over it, especially compared to the row over the feat called Golden Wyvern Adept and the inclusion of dragonborn as a PC race :p

I would be personally disappointed if the new SRD isn’t like the current one, i.e., that there is an online-accessible version with the core rules to play the game. I rely heavily on right now and would hate to see a resource like that disappear. However, the openness of the SRD/OGL for 3.x was a pretty amazing thing, unlike any other previous incarnation of D&D, so I can’t blame them if they want to reassert some control and, at the same time, make it necessary to at least own the PHB.

– Adrian 2008-01-09 10:43 UTC

I guess I’m mostly intrigued by the similarities between Software and D&D rules. The kind of early buy-in giving you a head-start is an interesting idea. I’m undecided: One the one hand, I have socialist tendencies, and this blatant encouragement of a division into big players and small players – argh… I just can’t say “Yes!” to it. On the other hand I totally understand they want to build some kind of filter to encourage quality third party products. Their solution is simple and will probably deliver with a good enough degree of confidence. Having to submit products to censors would be far worse, obviously. I’m also enjoying the copyright and patent talk. Dual-licensing the old SRD. The “Open” Gaming License transforming into something a bit less open by apparently incorporating d20 License issues (that nobody is allowed to talk about). Anyway, that’s the intriguing part.

I’m guessing the 4th ed SRD will contain the same amount of rules as the current version. The rules will not be written for the table, however. Thus, making something like useful for a gaming table will be much harder. That’s what they want the DI to be, after all. You’ll have to rewrite it. For people who like paper in their hands, no big loss. For some online players, it’s going to be a bummer or the DI membership. (And I’m not prepared to pay $10 to $15 a month for a D&D gaming service.)

As for the player handbook requirement, I’m hoping that it will basically just require the appropriate sentence somewhere prominent: This requires the ownership of the 4th ed. Players’s Handbook or something along these lines.

AlexSchroeder 2008-01-09 10:46 UTC

Well, you are supposed to receive a digital copy for a nominal fee ($2-3) when you purchase the hardcover book. This does not require DDI, and if the PDF is properly assembled, it would have some of the functionality of, say,, though PDFs are never as good in my experience.

My biggest concern is the fact that the 4E OGL appears to preclude books like Arcana Evolved and Iron Heroes. That is not to say that the 4E mechanics would even be compatible or desirable with AE or IH, but the little information available suggests that you can’t publish a 4E variant PHB, for example.

– Adrian 2008-01-10 17:16 UTC

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2008-01-08 Networking

During my working life I’ve come across Open BC as it was called in the past. They’ve since renamed themselves to Xing. I rarely check it because I only have my account password at home but I get my weekly notifications at work. Today I found two job offers in my inbox. Two recruiters looking for a project manager in Zürich, possibly offering a part time job. yellow ← conflicted!

What to do?

I think I’m too lazy and complacent. This is my 10th year at my first and only job. It’s a nice 60% job. Not too exciting, not too boring.

At least the Xing network is about real money and real jobs.


Comments on 2008-01-08 Networking

Stick with part-time if you can. I would do that, but in the states you can’t typically earn benefits (health care) – the man wants want all the hours he can get out of you.

AaronHawley 2008-01-10 05:28 UTC

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2008-01-10 Flickr Porn

Strange. I’ve been added as a contact by a person on Flickr that is also a member of what looks like an amateur porn group. Now I feel uncomfortable.

I think the only group I’m a member of that sometimes has sexual overtones is Girls of Japan. Too bad some of the comments and notes left on pictures in that group are tasteless.

(How to find out: Visit a Flickr member’s profile and look at their public groups at the bottom.)


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2008-01-10 Javascript Book

SteveYegge makes me wan to learn Rhino, based on his recent essays e.g. Code’s Worst Enemy. So, what’s the best book or online resource to get some in-depths Javascript stuff into my head? Tradition demands that I just buy the next O’Reilly book on the subject. But they, too, have several books. Gah.

I guess I don’t need a reference book because I am comfortable with using specifications and other reference material online.


Comments on 2008-01-10 Javascript Book

Hmmmph. Call me a cynic, but I never trust a programming language that’s within spitting distance of the “J” word. Think I’ll stick to Ruby (on Rails, or not) if it’s publicly visible stuff, Perl for my own needs and Python if I’m paid lots of cash (and for me to work in python, it needs to be bucketloads :) ).

If you want to learn a new, agile language, ruby/rails really is mindblowing. It’s perlish but plain english enough for even a non-programmer to follow, has a very low memory footprint and (most importantly) Just Works. If I remember correctly, you do have ruby books on your bookshelf too :)

Mind you, I am moving toward mono quite a lot. I like mono. And I love lua, but there’s sadly little demand outside of games development. I like perl & ruby more than anything else though.

GreyWulf 2008-01-10 20:32 UTC

I just feel SteveYegge’s pain when he says “Perl 6 really is a pretty nice language design, for the record – I was really infatuated with it back in 2001. The love affair died about five years ago, though.” [1] Perl 6 is taking longer than Emacs to be released!

The canonical document is the Emacs Timeline by JamieZawinski:

Major VersionFirst Release181986191993201997212001222003

And I thought Emacs was glacial.

Anyway. I’m feeling bad because my company is bananas about Java, SOA, Eclipse and every other technology that is badmouthed by hackers everywhere. Now what do I do?

I felt that maybe server-side Javascript would be an interesting alternative. At least remotely useful at work. Unlike my long-standing interest in learning Common Lisp and Haskell.

I do have the Ruby books. The problem is that Ruby on Rails looked like the perfect tool for boring projects. I didn’t know what to do with Ruby on Rails that I could either not do in Perl or that did not look like corporate blah. So I stopped after a few pages. Shame on me. Maybe I should pick it up again. It just seems that the new thing should be different enough from Perl and Python to be worth it. And Ruby looks like a compromise between Perl and Python. :)

Mono, however. Now there’s an idea.

AlexSchroeder 2008-01-10 21:21 UTC

Ruby is great at solving problems; in that respect, you’re right, it is boring. It’s possible to learn it in half a day and be creating full blown web apps a day later. That does create a feeling of “I’m done. Now what?”….

Mind you, that does leave the door open to concentrate on the problems themselves. It’s like having your own private Ning playground. I reckon Ruby is what Perl 6 should be, now.

I’m wih you. Mono is very cool. Unlike java, it’s a genuinely useful, productive language that hasn’t been crippled by marketing types and a bad memory model.

GreyWulf 2008-01-11 01:50 UTC

Another SteveYegge rant… or rather, a transcript of a talk: Dynamic Languages Strike Back containing lots of hope for Javascript.

AlexSchroeder 2008-05-27 16:17 UTC

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2008-01-11 Eschalon

ShamusYoung has me intrigued: Eschalon Book I: First Impressions. I’m downloading the Eschalon Book I Demo. Windows, Mac, and Linux. Turn based old-school roleplaying game. Ultima cited as one of the inspirations.

Update: Played with it for an hour, but I don’t think I’d spend tons of time with it. I might as well start playing Oblivion or Ultima IV again. One major drawback was that things seemed to slow down to a crawl in the first little town. And moving around didn’t feel to quick either. That probably means I can’t recommend it. My old iBook is too weak for this game.

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Comments on 2008-01-11 Eschalon

Won’t work on my laptop at all. Darned integrated graphics cards. Meh. :(

GreyWulf 2008-01-11 11:09 UTC

Play xu4 instead? :)

AlexSchroeder 2008-01-11 11:28 UTC

Heh. Playing Exult is plenty Ultima fix for me right now. I’ve got u4 installed ready and waiting though :)

GreyWulf 2008-01-12 10:52 UTC

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2008-01-11 Gmail Contacts

A while ago Google changed the user interface for your contacts. I’ve defined a group for every one of my D&D campaigns. The new user interface looks fancier and is less useful than the old one. Slowly Gmail is being bogged down by cruft: There’s menus hidden on buttons, actions triggered by clicking on links, and these can be above, below, or to the left of the main pane. It’s confusing.


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2008-01-12 Mac Mini Will Not Sleep

Strange, the Mac Mini will no longer sleep. When I put it to sleep it will wake up immediately. I faintly remember having seen this before. Was it SlimServer or Apache running in the background? Shutting them both down doesn’t fix the problem, so it must be something else. Grrr.


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2008-01-12 Per Encounter Hitpoints

I’ve been thinking about some of the things I might houserule in future games.

One of the things that come to mind: Hit points are per encounter resources: At the end of the encounter you take a minute or two to catch your breath and you're back at full hit-points.

My players rarely walk into a fight without healing back to full hit points. I personally find a wand of cure light wounds to be super boring, and yet that’s the most reasonable option.

If characters nearly died during a fight (below zero hitpoints), then I’d love it if they roleplayed being stunned, exhausted, fatigued, or whatever for the day. They just had a near death experience! Enforcing this via rules might make it less fun, though.

I’m no longer that interested in fixing skills.

All the buffing is getting on my nerves as a DM. I hate it when a player rolls some dice and then starts mumbling “so that’s plus eight, and protection from evil +1, and bull’s strength +2, and how could I forget bless +1 – yes, I hit!!” As a player I find keeping track of the numbers doesn’t have to be a problem. I start the session with a big empty sheet of paper with my current damage total my current attack bonus. As soon as the situation changes, I recompute the numbers and replace the old ones. When it is my turn I roll my dice and I know that the current bonus is +5/+5 (+8 ranged -2 for distance, -2 for rapid shot, and +1 for bless). I don’t have to repeat this calculation every single time I roll a die.

I think as a DM I should just punish players for wasting our time, harr harr. :sardonic:

“So that’s plus eight, and protection from evil +1, and bull’s strength +2, and how could I forget bless +1 – yes, I hit" "No you didn't That took way too long! NEXT!”

Late night posting. Not good. :)


Comments on 2008-01-12 Per Encounter Hitpoints

Iron Heroes has a pool called reserve points. It is equal to your normal hit point pool. Out of combat, you can transfer something like 1 point from your reserve pool to your hit point pool per minute. There is no penalty to have 0 reserve points, other than you have nothing left to draw on. This, of course, is slower than your 5 minutes = full hit points, but it does have the benefit of allowing the PCs to endure more combat. Some special abilities let you transfer reserve points in combat and much faster, as well.

Re: skills, I am still really interested in consolidating the skill list, but I think if you make all skills class skills, give every class more skill points, and make changes in your Int modifier retroactively change your skill point total (like Con affects hp), that it is not too bad a system to work with.

– Adrian 2008-01-13 14:02 UTC

Cool, that sounds a lot like what I had in mind. At higher level this is going to be intractable, however. Keeping track of the number of minutes passed will end up being fudged by the DM, I’m sure.

AlexSchroeder 2008-01-13 19:09 UTC

I’d probably just simplify the recovery mechanics to “once you have a few (1-5) minutes to catch your breath, you can refill your hit point pool on a 1-to-1 basis from your reserve pool.”

Now that I think about it, this is basically like doubling a PC’s hit points, except that you only have access to the first half of the pool in combat; as a result, it doesn’t significantly alter your staying power in combat, but it does increase your ability to survive successive encounters.

Then you can add a feat that lets you use your reserve pool in combat, kind of like getting a second wind (which I think is something that Star Wars Saga already has).

– Adrian 2008-01-14 10:58 UTC

Hm. I think I’d try the simplest form first: “Once you have a few minutes to catch your breath, you’re back at full hit points.”

Now I need to find a campaign where the players are willing to experiment with my houserules. The next campaign, I keep telling myself. :)

AlexSchroeder 2008-01-14 14:52 UTC

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2008-01-12 Yahoo Spam

Often I log on to my various instant messaging networks (→ Contact) and some dummy Yahoo account will send me spam. Something like the following:

11:58 twilaja
w<#988621>ant t<#D20057>o kno<#313821>w m<#010152>e bet<#216765>ter? check webs<#652542>ite o<#c76105>ut <#562571>http:<#d01016>//w<#947328>ww.JAC<#c41284>KIE<#e00611>-WE<#F00257>BC<#124045>AM<#A67748>.COM


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2008-01-13 Belflin Goes To Arcadia

“It is the land of perfection. “It is where laws are made for the common good. “It is the plane where harmony is born.” – Peaceable Kingdoms of Arcadia, Manual of the Planes, p. 130

The party decides to ride to Pembrose, spend the night, ride to the ruined keep, and investigate the spot marked “L. K. 3 keys” on their map. When they reach the underground lake, they are suddenly surrounded by a party of drow males and some Crushed Skull orcs. Belflin and the drow try to intimidate each other, and Belflin wins his check! What the party doesn’t know is that the drow and orcs are themselves in a stand off. So the party wriggles itself out of the situation and continues. The next day the orcs try to sneak up to the party as they camp having followed them home to their lair. But Belflin hears them, and they manage to ambush the orcs. Karamutenga slaughters many an orc tonight. Too bad Silas can’t wear his impressive full plate at night. His celestial dogs do distract the orcs and the resulting fight is fast an furious.

Some shadows are also encountered later that day and destroyed by the power of Muir that Silas invokes. Corian also manages to lure a Xorn away by using Fly and dropping gold coins…

When the party arrives at last, they find an anti-magic effect protecting a huge two-winged door and three hexagonal holes. Three key holes! They set up camp and decide to return.

At night they are attacked by a phase spider that manages to poison Belflin. He makes a saving throw for the first bite, but fails his save for the second bite. -8 to Con. Silas casts Bear’s Endurance, and the party manages to slay the creature. The cleric tries to heal Belflin, but rolls badly. The phase spider has been dead for a few rounds, and Beflin fails another save. -7 to Con. And Silas is out of spells. No scrolls and potions to keep Belflin alive… He writes his last wishes on a parchment, says goodbye to Dog the tame weasel, and thinks of the homeland… Time passes, and he hears the song of birds and a breeze heavy with the perfume of flowers. Arcadia awaits! …

The party is lucky to avoid encounters on the way out and ends up at the Church of the Ever-Shinig Sun in Bostwick. Belflin has to be raised from the dead by Jeffar. The diamond they had to buy from Angus Carl in Twain cost them nearly all their party treasure and they had to sell Belflin’s dwarven +1 composit longbow Str +3… But sell it they did and Belflin returned from the dead.

Everybody was relaxing, they wanted to know about XP, and so we stopped the game an hour early, calculated XP, rolled for hit-points, talked about the next steps to take, and looked at new spells.

Instead of using an initiative board we used index cards that we just put in the right order. That takes less space at the table which is good.

I hate to think that I wasted precious time yesterday cooking up drow stats. Today I rediscovered that the book has NPC stats in the back of the book. I love NPC stats with class levels in source books. :)

Vault of Larin Karr by W.D.B. Kenower – totally recommended! There’s tons of random encounters in the Underdark because you’re supposed to roll for an encounter every six hours and you can only cover 6 to 12 miles a day down there. And as the forest is huge with about 40 miles between villages, getting around underground is tedious and dangerous. You really need to know where you’re going or you’ll end up lost and most probably dead. I like the result. My players are cautious about the Underdark. It did not register immediately and running around in circles down there probably wasn’t as much fun. (→ 2007-12-02 To the light) I’ll have to ask my players about this.

I really loved how we played all the fights without battlemaps today! Yay. :)


Challenges overcome:

  • a drow war party consisting of six Fighter 2, a Fighter 3, a Fighter 4, and a Wizard 5
  • an orc war party consisiting of nine Warrior 2 and a Fighter 2
  • six shadows
  • a xorn
  • a phase spider

Level 6: 17250 ⇒ 4312 per person

; Corian: 25157 (Sor-7) ; Karamutenga: 23382 (Brb-7) ; Silas: 22512 (Cle-7) ; Auroleva: 20686 (Drd-3/Clr-3) ; Belflin: 18000 (Rng-6)


Comments on 2008-01-13 Belflin Goes To Arcadia

I really need to crack open that adventure and take a good look at it. Excellent write-up, Alex. I’m following the progress eagerly.

It’s good to know the lack of battlemats went well. Tell me more :)

GreyWulf 2008-01-13 22:29 UTC

Hehe… Well, one day, when the British postal service is not on strike, we might do another barter thing if you don’t have it yet. :vee:

As for no battlemap, I try to use common sense. I split the fight up into little groups, usually such that it’s a n:1 situation. For example: If ten orcs attack four characters, then there’s four orcs to the guard, and two orcs each for the other three characters.

  • No attacks of opportunity against spell casters and archers (ie. you can always do a five foot step unless you’re in difficult terrain).
  • Moving to another group provokes attacks of opportunity from the guys you’re leaving.
  • If you stick to your group, you can do full attacks.
  • The single guy in each group is flanked.
  • Only single guys being flanked get cover from ranged attacks.
  • Don’t ignore “into melee” for ranged attacks.

I don’t think we had to use anything else. Notice how I ignore movement speed.

The only thing I need to get used to is going with cinematic combat without thinking about the rules. Karamutenga the female half-orc is feigning sleep while on watch in order to lure the orcs into the ambush. Once they’re close, she “jumps up and beheads the guy”. Instead of thinking “uhh… jump?” just say :ok: “Hell Yeah!! Roll to hit!” :punch: :danger: :)

AlexSchroeder 2008-01-14 01:01 UTC

My characters’ deaths have always been violent and sudden. It was a unique experience to have a few minutes to settle down, scribble out a last will and testament, say my farewells, and make peace with the universe before finally sucumbing to the poison.

Actually I was having flashbacks of Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. :D

And even better, Belflin’s back, only lost half a level, and we sold that stupid dwarven-crafted longbow. You can be sure I won’t make that mistake again.

– Marco 2008-01-14 09:22 UTC

I liked that scene very much. And Claudia did as well. :)

Now that you mentioned Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon (2000), the similarity is striking.

AlexSchroeder 2008-01-14 10:24 UTC

I think I really have to reconsider what a Raise Dead spell does in-game. You guys just bought a diamond worth 5000 gold pieces, which would have paid more than nine years of a very decent upkeep for a man – living in inns, eating good food, sleeping in clean beds, drink good wine. I’m sure Jeffar rarely gets to cast this spell. Maybe once a decade. Rumors must be spreading like wildfire. “Remember Belfin? Yes, the elf that slew the ettins of Twain! I heard he got killed by a poisonous monster in the Underdark. Yes, the Underdark!!”

AlexSchroeder 2008-01-15 18:30 UTC

Damn. I just realized that Jeffar is a level eight cleric in the book. She’s not supposed to be able to cast Raise Dead yet.

AlexSchroeder 2008-01-17 19:13 UTC

Maybe she had a scroll…

– Sektat 2008-01-17 19:34 UTC

Yeah. :) Or she gained a level in the mean time. I think a better question would be: Would it be more fun if Belflin had died permanently? I’m not sure. I remember Claudia being speechless and thinking to herself: “What!? This can’t be true!” So assuming having Jeffar raise the dead is good for the game, then it will be good for the game the next time as well. I might as well make her ninth level.

AlexSchroeder 2008-01-17 19:49 UTC

Still…I remember the times where it really meant something to die…not just a small hole in the group cash.

– Sektat 2008-01-18 07:11 UTC

Those were the days of low-level play… :)

AlexSchroeder 2008-01-18 08:13 UTC

If Belflin had died without any means of resurrection, it would have been a bummer. Considering the circumstances (failed two saves, causing 15 out of a maximum possible 16 con damage) it would have sucked big time, in fact.

After a certain amount of character development (and Belflin has had his share) a player becomes attached to his or her character. I understand there’s a certain risk in dying, and it’s a process of heartache and character development, but to just start again with a new character…

I mean, come on! Where is the love, people?

– Marco 2008-01-22 18:40 UTC

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2008-01-13 Turn Saves Into Defenses

This is something inspired by reading comments on Star Wars Saga edition and 4th ed. D&D.

Changing all your saves into something like AC would be cool. So, if your fireball is DC 17 (+4 Int, +3 level), and the victim rolls 1d20 + Reflex +4, turn it around: Attacker rolls 1d20 + 7 vs. Reflex 14. Instead of the defender having to roll a 13 or higher, the attacker has to roll a 7 or higher. Same effect, more consistent rules.

If you’re confused, consider every static value as somebody using Take 10. The DMG has a section about defense rolls. If you want to add them, you can. Instead of having AC 17, roll 1d20 +7 armor and Dex bonus. So the DC of 10 + something by the attacker can be reinterpreted as a 1d20 + something. And a the save of 1d20 + something by the defender can be reinterpreted as a Take 10 + something. All we’re doing is making sure that attackers keep rolling dice.


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2008-01-16 Autotrophe Ernährung

Ich hasse Schnupfen, Kopfweh und Halsweh.


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2008-01-17 Castle Whiterock

Ok, I broke down. I ordered Castle Whiterock by Goodman Games. “And I got five skulls to add to my count of PC deaths, which always makes a killer DM’s heart warm.” [1] Third session, nine characters killed…

So now I have two mega dungeons and a big dungeon waiting for players. The other mega dungeon is Rappan Athuk by Necromancer Games and the big dungeon is Tomb of Abysthor by Necromancer Games.

I ordered Castle Whiterock from the Goodman Games online store, so the entire deal is costing me about USD 120. When I tried looking for it on Amazon, I did not find it except for second hand dealers. Some second hand dealers had clearly misidentified the product – it sold for less than USD 30 and when I checked the ISBN it turned out to belong to another book. I wonder how the sellers would have talked themselves out of it.

I ordered it from somebody at two thirds the price and then got an email saying that it was no longer in stock. I ghess that’s how they talk themselves out of it.

So I started looking at buying it new, and it seemed like the highest saving I could have managed was about USD 5. Then I remembered what happened about half a year ago (→ 2007-07-10 Goodman Games). They had sent me stuff with postage worth about USD 50 and only asked for USD 5. I think they deserve more business for that mistake. :)

On related news: I’m not sure what to do about OpenDesign. I was no patron of the Arabian adventures, and I think I’ll skip the Blood of the Gorgon adventure [2]. USD 25 for a PDF product still seems to be too expensive. I already feel stupid for paying USD 10 or more for other PDF products. As my stack of material grows (not surprisingly with Pathfinder and Game Mastery module subscribtions), I feel like I really have to cut down on things. Thus, no more USD 25 for a PDF only adventure. I don’t get too much out of the forums supporting the development process. That alone is not worth a lot to me.

I might end up buying more Dungeon Crawl Classics by Goodman Games, skip 4E, and play all the 3E stuff until 5th ed. comes along. :)

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Comments on 2008-01-17 Castle Whiterock

Sounds like a good plan to me!

You won’t be disappointed with Castle Whiterock, that’s for sure - especially if you toss a few of the DCCs into the mix too. I recommend #35 The Gazetter of the Known Realms, #28 Into the Wilds and #14 Dungeon Unterludes. These will give you plenty of extra dressing to surround Whiterock :)

GreyWulf 2008-01-17 23:42 UTC

I should really stop reading threads like Favorite Necromancer Product – I spent two hours looking up products on Ebay and Amazon, sending queries out to two shops in Germany, and generally being a fool that needs to be parted from his cash instead of lying in the arms of my wife and enjoying a good night’s sleep.


AlexSchroeder 2008-01-19 02:42 UTC

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2008-01-18 Level Loss And Death

There’s a nice house rules on dying by Andy Collins. I might use them for the next campaign because we’ve had some discussions about regaining lost levels. We ruled that we would reroll hit dice and that we could pick a different class on levelling up etc. But unfortunately that requires you to keep track of hit and skill points per level. That sucks. Some of the players do it, but it seems such a waste of time.


Comments on 2008-01-18 Level Loss And Death

The idea of Andy Collins sounds very interesting. Some more thoughts about dying – from death-experienced players point of view. ;)

If you play high level characters, the party has always money enough to resurrect a dead party member. Even though, everybody is afraid to die. And this fear sometimes paralyzes the plot and almost ruins challenging encounters. And sometimes even a brave character / player almost dies because his party members didn’t fully support him.

In fact, dying of a single character has – from my point of view – only two negative aspects (which are not even really that bad):

1. Loosing XP and therefore, a level. Honestly, the only problem with that is, that the other party members may be “better”, higher level, they are ahead with all the goodies etc. All the discussions and arguments such as “I really love my character”, “I invested a lot of time and energy”, “the last 10 encounters for nothing” etc. are IMO false pretences. I’m sure, everybody had fun with the last 10 encounters, nobody really looses something (except money for resurrection, also see Sektats short comment on Belflin Goes To Arcadia) and, the encounters as 10th level fighters are not much better or challenging than at 8th level.

2. Wasted time – on the on hand for “rebuilding” lower level character. Andy Collins has a very good solution for that. I like it. On the other hand, the party may loose time during the adventure, the story. But, first of all: for the player it is very boring just to watch the story and wait for a cleric. But if he is motivated to do so and the party is willing to carry the dead corpse maybe for days and weeks up to mountains, through deserts etc. the character isn’t lost – no problem at all.

So, why is this fear during encounters? Sure, if the whole party dies, it is something completely different. :)

Some other thoughts, maybe options to discuss for house rules:

  • If a character dies, shouldn’t this result in a collective penalty for the party? Since all members profit equally from XP-gaining (depending on their level) all party members should loose XP (also depending on their level) when a party member dies. And no extra penalty for the dead character, since it also not only his fault that he dies… (I really like this rule. :D)
  • Should each character have a maximum number of deaths? I would say: Yes. Otherwise an adventure may become the title “Character X’ re-re-resurrection story”.
  • Maybe each party member should have a wand of teleport to “remove” dying characters from a fight. ;)
  • Should there be a maximum time radius (in playing time) within the next cleric lives, able to do a resurrection. Because it is good to know, if we have to discuss among the party members – and the player of the dead character – if we should try to resurrect him at all and to postpone (or even cancel!) all the nice encounters and treasures and… I would highly appreciate such a rule.

zeno 2008-01-23 20:00 UTC

Also note that Raise Dead requires a whole body. If a friend is killed and beheaded, for example, you will need a more expensive spell… In the old games, there was a limit to the number of resurrections: Every resurrection cost one permanent Con point. At some point adventuring is just too dangerous and it’s time to settle down and start running an inn or a shop somewhere. :)

AlexSchroeder 2008-01-23 23:57 UTC

or become king! :D

zeno 2008-01-24 12:53 UTC

I think the loss of XP is too punitive. When the “party” defeats a monster, everyone present gains XP, regardless of contribution. This makes sense and is as it should be, because (1) contribution to overcoming a challenge or winning a fight is hard to quantify, and (2) D&D is a cooperative game, not a competition. When a character dies, however, it is often a result of bad luck, poor collective play, or simply that character doing his or her job (like the paladin interposing herself between the rest of the party and the balor) and just getting too much of a monster’s attention. The idea of splitting the XP loss burden across the party is intriguing.

But I am a firm believer that XP is not a resource, to be used or lost (whether from level loss or crafting magical items), but rather a tracker of your character’s progress. I like the semi-permanent negative level idea from Andy Collins’s house rules.

I think the hard part should probably be bringing characters back from the dead in the first place, whether through increased cost or level of the spells involved.

– Adrian 2008-01-24 14:12 UTC

Well, as a GM it’s always hard to say no to a player who had his character die. It’s also often weird if characters died non-heroically at the hands of some random encounter, eg. ghouls or phase spiders. Right then and there, the GM must come up with a suitably intriguing sub-quest, and provide the player with a nice NPC to play in the meantime. It’s easy if everybody has a cohort in the party, but it’s tricky if the party is in a remote desert or somewhere in the Underdark, days away from any help.

AlexSchroeder 2008-01-24 15:32 UTC

“Bad things should happen to the characters, not to the player.

A bad thing happening to a player is not playing. A bad thing happening to a character is taking damage, having to overcome a nasty poison or what-you-have. The key thing is to have things that are bad for the character, but they shouldn’t be bad - in a pure “game” sense - to the player.”

This is a quote from a discussion on ENWorld about Stun/Paralysis in 4E. But I think it sums up nicely one of the problems with character death, and why we have to tread carefully with it.

– Adrian 2008-01-24 16:39 UTC

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2008-01-18 Skype Games

I always thought that playing a game while sitting alone at the table would never work. But SonsOfKryos episode #54 eroded my conviction. It might be an opportunity to play a different system like Burning Wheel or Fudge or whatever.

What I don’t want is a MUSH game – I hated the so-called “long typers” on Elendor. Everybody has to wait two minutes and then a 25 line mini-essay comes in…

Stuff to keep in mind:

  1. Tech issues, test the setup
  2. Honor system for dice & character sheet
  3. Body language, webcam, and immersion (might be better without a cam)


Comments on 2008-01-18 Skype Games

I have been running an Arcana Evolved solo game over Skype with a friend of mine. We will be shortly trying Exalted 2e over Skype with one other person, using the conference call feature. So far I am relatively pleased with it. It definitely works better with a system like Exalted 2e (which is more cinematic) than AE/D&D/d20 (which my friend and I are used to playing with minis and a battlemap).

– Adrian 2008-01-18 13:49 UTC

Double cool! How is 1:1 working for you? I’d like to talk about it on Sunday. I’ve been trying it with Claudia but it turns out that we rarely take the time to actually sit down and play. There are so many other things to do.

And I’m interested in Skype. I’m also interested in mixed groups. Mircea, for example, will be around coming Sunday. But I’m not sure about later. It’s a long drive from Munich to Zurich for D&D… :)

AlexSchroeder 2008-01-18 15:50 UTC

I think I’ve found the thread on where Judd talks about the Burning Wheel game involving two hateful orcs. I love it.

AlexSchroeder 2008-01-19 16:29 UTC

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2008-01-18 Verkehrte Welt

In den letzten Tagen habe ich drei Mal Tiroler Cake gemacht. Einen Teil des gestrigen Kuchens habe ich Claudia für’s Büro mitgegeben.


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Comments on 2008-01-18 Verkehrte Welt


– Marco 2008-01-18 13:11 UTC

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2008-01-19 Squad Leader

Many years ago, when we discovered that there was a shop in the far away city of Zürich that sold Dungeons & Dragons material, we also saw lots of strategy games in the far corners of the shop. How weird!

The years passed and Marcel bought Squad Leader. Many years ago I’ve played the first two scenarios, I think. Today we played through the first scenario again. I think the rules are a bit too complicated, and I’m a bit afraid that while I get used to the rules we used today, the new rules for the next scenario will be just as complicated. We’ll see. I’m fascinated by the second world war and tactical combat, so it might go either way. I’m looking forward to the next session.

I’d be interested in similar games with simpler mechanics. Increase the coolness without increasing the complexity.


Comments on 2008-01-19 Squad Leader

I remember owning a board game that played very similar to the computer game Panzer General a long time ago; that was great fun to play with superb, logical rules which even a casual board gamer could enjoy. I’m pretty sure it was Panzer Leader, a precursor to Squad Leader.

There’s no shortage of old, classic boardgame in the bins of 2nd-hand bookshops and charity stores around here; I’ll dig around in them for you :)

Meantime, I’m lost in Car Wars right now.

GreyWulf 2008-01-19 23:14 UTC

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2008-01-20 Burning Wheel

I really want a BurningWheel game! I recently mentioned how impressed I was with a two player Skype game [1]. Today I was looking for reviews of BurningEmpires – a science fiction game based on a comic I’ve never heard of and I stumbled over yet another Burning Wheel game report that I loved to read. [2] And it’s a one on one game on top of it all!

I’m interested in learning about non-combat oriented games, one-on-one games, and using other media (and I’ve already tried text-only in a MUSH and I’ve seen play by post, ie. forums).

Anyway, I put Monster Burner and Burning Empires into my shopping cart, but then I started looking for copies of the books in second hand stores, investigating the websites, and checking out the comics – and eventually I wasted so much time that I reconsidered and abandoned the shopping cart. I should get a game of Burning Wheel started before actually buying any supplements.

Oh, I already bought one. The Blossoms Are Falling. Oh well.

I decided to buy the two comics that Burning Empires is based upon – Iron Empires. They’re drawn by Christoph Moeller. They seem to be available from my local comic shop, Analph.

Reading the chapter on beliefs, instincs, and traits again, I see how it can work. The hard part is getting my head around the fact that this game is so far away from the various D&D variants out there.

Three things you really believe in. Stuff that involves you in the world and leads to conflict. Example: “Lord Onishi built his castle on the lands of my ancestors. I will destroy his clan and kill all of his sons.”
Three things you will automatically do, always. A condition followed by an action, for example. “Whenever someone draws a weapon without proper ceremonial warning, I will attack immediately.”
Simple stuff that describes your character or provides a small bonus in certain situations.

The cool thing is how you rise in power:

  1. achieve goals that support your beliefs
  2. act on your instincts when it leads you into trouble
  3. after 6-12 sessions, the table votes on new traits for characters based on past performance

As I said, it’s very alien to me. But I can see how the system encourages you to pick beliefs that draw you into conflict, because the the system rewards you for it.


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2008-01-20 Coding Project

I’m toying with the idea of learning and actually using a new language – something other than Emacs Lisp or Perl. Common Lisp, Javascript (using Rhino) or Haskell are on my short list. But what for? While playing Squad Leader I wondered how difficult it would be to implement a computer player. But then I thought: Are there no simpler rules? And I remembered the fun I had playing Advance Wars on the Game Boy Advance. One could use some of the numbers from the Advance Wars FAQs on GameFAQs


Comments on 2008-01-20 Coding Project

I’ve come up with various game ideas over the years, and even made noises about starting something, but as soon as you get past the fun design big you get hit by a wall of technical difficulties and a lot of work. It’s futile.

What would be neat would be to have some sort of platform that lets you start building the game straight away and seeing results. Perhaps it’s just me, but some sort of instant gratification is necessary to keep me motivated.

– Marco 2008-01-20 13:49 UTC

Absolutely. That’s why the first and only game I ever developped was a PlayByEmailGame. That way I could use very simple input and output and concentrate on the game engine itself. And that’s what fascinates me the most.

AlexSchroeder 2008-01-20 21:04 UTC

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2008-01-20 EN World Disappointment

October 2007 I sent USD 40 to EN World to buy myself a community supporter account. But nothing has happened. I’ve sent several Emails, and no reaction. What am I supposed to do? Or am I not looking in the right place?


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2008-01-20 Kaiserschmarrn mit Bildern

Habe ich mal vor zwei Jahren geschrieben [1]:

90g Butter
½l Milch
250g Mehl
125g Zucker
6 EigelbAlles mischen und gut rühren
6 EiweissSteif schlagen und darunter heben
noch mehr Butter (40g)In der Pfanne schmelzen, Teig hinein leeren und bei nicht zu hoher Temperatur backen
2EL Rosinen (50g)Nach kurzer Zeit über den Teig streuen (so können sie nicht mehr auf den Boden sinken)

Nach 5-10 Minuten kontrollieren ob der Teig unten etwas braun geworden ist. Dann wenden, wenn es geht. Geht aber meistens nicht, weil oben noch alles flüssig ist. Kein Problem, einfach eine Sauerei veranstalten. Mit zwei Gabeln zerpflücken. Vorsicht, wer eine Teflonpfanne verwendet sollte Holzgabeln (evt. Salatbesteck?) verwenden.

ApfelmusEine Minute weiter backen bis alles trocken ist und dann mit Puderzucker (aka. »Staubzucker«) bestreut servieren
Als Beilage servieren

Falls die Pfanne zu klein ist evt. in zwei Portionen zubereiten.

Apfelkompott selber machen ist sehr leicht. Hier für zwei Personen: 4 Äpfel schälen, halbieren, 1 Zimtstange oder 1-3 Stück Zimtrinde, 6-8 Gewürznelken, 3-6 Kardamomkapseln, 2-4 EL Zucker und etwas Wasser in einen kleinen Topf, ein paar Minuten kochen bis die Äpfel weich sind, servieren. Falls gewünscht kann man die Äpfel auch zerstossen oder die Gewürze vor dem Servieren entfernen. Das ist mir aber meistens zu mühsam.

Alternativ als Auflauf im Ofen backen (ca. 40min), aber da habe ich schlechte Erinnerungen an meine Kindheit, deswegen habe ich bisher immer nur mit der Pfanne gearbeitet.

In der Pfanne zubereiten



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2008-01-20 Tiroler Cake

Tomorrow we’ll be continuing our Shackled City campaign. I’ve tried my Tiroler Cake twice and it was awesome. It is now 1:33 in the morning and I’ve decided to bake a third one for my D&D buddies. They deserve it.

I really need to learn the English cookbook jargon. In German there are very specific phrases to use for the various steps. If you can fix the recipe, please do.

125g (1/2 cup) butter at room temperatureAt room temperature it’ll be easy to mix with the egg yolks!
4 egg yolksWe need the egg whites, don’t throw them away.
a dash of saltBeat until light yellow and foamy.
200g (2/3 cup) sugar
120g (1 cup) flour
200g (1-2/3 cup) ground hazelnutsAdd to the yolks and butter.
50g (1/3 cup) whole hazelnutsCoarsely grind them yourself. Texture is important so don’t overdo it.
½ pack of baking powderIf you don’t buy it in packs of around 16g, just use a teaspoon of baking powder. The cake is not supposed to be fluffy! Mix with the dough. This is when you use your hands to really get into it…
150g (5 ounces) good dark chocolateI like Crémant by Cailler; “cocoa solids: 46% minimum”; buy cheap chocolate and you deserve a cheap cake. Break it into little pieces and add to the dough.
4 egg whitesBeat until “stiff but not dry” and carefully fold into the dough you already have. This looks tricky, but it’s easy.
Pour into a baking pan that you greased with some butter. Don’t forget that it will rise, so don’t worry if it doesn’t seem to fill the pan.

The entire thing should have taken you half an hour, including doing the dishes.

Bake at the bottom of your oven, 180°C, for anything between 30 and 60 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean. In my oven it’s around half an hour.

Tiroler Cake

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Comments on 2008-01-20 Tiroler Cake

Nummies :) Think I will have to try that one out :D

And the only thing I could find in that recipe that looked a bit “odd” was “black chocolate”. I assume that you mean dark chocolate? :)

Christa 2008-01-20 02:47 UTC

Cool. Let me know how it went. I will change the chocolate.

AlexSchroeder 2008-01-20 09:34 UTC

I was one of the happy people who “deserved” it. Yummy!! Great cake, thanks Alex. I’ll be anytime again volonteer to test whatever you want to try out.

– Mircea 2008-01-21 16:44 UTC

Schmeckte sehr gut!

– Adrian 2008-01-21 17:01 UTC

Thanks, guys. I can’t really remember any more old cakes from my youth. Tiroler Cake was my absolute favorite.

I think I also liked Marmorkuchen and Zitronenkuchen (where you pour lemon juice over the resulting cake). But if I had the choice, I’d take Tiroler Cake.

We’ll see. Maybe I’ll try something new soon.

AlexSchroeder 2008-01-21 23:36 UTC

For the moment, however, I’ve just baked my fourth one. It’s something I enjoy doing: Mastering a particular recipe. Just do it again and again, experimenting with the ingredients. Out of hazelnuts? Use almonds for the rest. Like the chocolate? Use 200g chocolate. And so on. The three previous cakes have been excellent, by the way.

AlexSchroeder 2008-01-25 19:16 UTC

I finally got around to trying this. Besides burning it – I checked after a half-hour and it was too late, I’m not sure the hazelnut consistency was correct. In this hemisphere, using hazelnut in cooking is only for purposes of a special treat. The supermarket only had chopped hazelnuts distributed by a U.S. corporation. What should the consistency of “ground hazelnuts” be? More than just “chopped”, eh? Perhaps you could post a picture of your ground hazelnuts?

AaronHawley 2009-03-03 02:39 UTC

Check out these links:

  • ground hazelnuts [1]
  • chopped hazelnuts [2]

Sometimes I do the chopping myself using whole hazelnuts and a knife. 50g is not too much.

AlexSchroeder 2009-03-04 18:05 UTC

The chopped I can get. I guess I’ll need a food processor to get the ground hazelnuts.

AaronHawley 2009-03-05 01:39 UTC

We’re having a group of guests tomorrow afternoon and another group for the evening. I made two of these. :)

AlexSchroeder 2009-03-07 22:25 UTC

Looking forward for trying the tiroler cake tomorrow! :)

– Eloisa 2009-08-27 21:45 UTC

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2008-01-21 OSX Misbehaving

In /var/log:

-rw-r-----    1 root  admin          2K Jan 21 19:01 windowserver.log
-rw-r-----    1 root  admin          5G Jan 21 18:45 windowserver_last.log

Wow!! 5G of log files??

Most of it looked like this:

Jan 21 18:45:48  [727] (ipc/rcv) invalid name: CGXRunOneServerPass: mach_msg (gServiceSet) failed (last RPC: LaunchAppRequestWithAuditInfo)
Jan 21 18:45:48  [727] (ipc/rcv) invalid name: CGXRunOneServerPass: mach_msg (gServiceSet) failed (last RPC: LaunchAppRequestWithAuditInfo)
Jan 21 18:45:48  [727] (ipc/rcv) invalid name: CGXRunOneServerPass: mach_msg (gServiceSet) failed (last RPC: LaunchAppRequestWithAuditInfo)

Whatever that means… I had to use sudo rm /var/log/windowserver*.log in order to free some space on my drive…


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2008-01-24 Movies...

Hm… Stuff I’ve seen:

  • Adam’s Apple (2005) – Danish story about some disturbed people. We laughed and we cringed.
  • The Polar Express (2004) – yawn! What a lousy story. And the scenes at the north pole? No thanks. Way, way too boring. Not recommended.
  • Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007) – I like Cate Blanchet. I like history. I loved her whisper after the one kiss: “I die…”
  • Mystic Pizza (1988) – Interesting to see Julia Roberts before she was famous. Were the 80s really that bad? Seeing Lili Taylor try to speak Portuguese was weird. The Portuguese songs in the end I liked. But the 80s… Argh. I cannot recommend it.


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2008-01-24 The file is too large for XMPP

What the hell is this about? Whenever I try to use buddy icons for myself or others I run into this problem when I use Pidgin. “The file ‘blabla’ is too large for XMPP. Please try a smaller image.” What’s the definition of “small”? And why is everybody else using “large” images? What am I doing wrong? Grrrr. :(


Comments on 2008-01-24 The file is too large for XMPP

Maybe it’s not about the image dimensions, but the file size, in bytes?

RadomirDopieralski 2008-01-25 14:11 UTC

Strangely enough I’ve never seen this message from Adium which also uses libgaim, so Adium must either ignore something, or automatically do the right thing. Weird.

AlexSchroeder 2008-01-25 19:26 UTC

05/02/2007 01:42:06 PM changed by chckens

“This error message is slightly ambiguous. Pidgin can (and does, from my testing) resize images to be of suitable pixel dimensions (the XMPP spec says icons SHOULD be between 32 and 96 pixels, and Pidgin adheres to this). Problem is that images also SHOULD use less than 8 kilobytes of data.

Without having studied the code too closely, I’d guess what is happening here is images are being resized to the maximum allowable dimensions, then later tested for file size, which is > 8KB. Any reasonably complex PNG image measuring 96x96 pixels is likely to end up > 8KB.

XEP-0084 also says that 64x64 is the recommended size for avatars. I guess better behaviour would be to target 64x64 pixels when scaling icons, and thus have a much lower chance of falling foul of the 8KB limit.”

Hope this helps other people.

– John Stavrakakis 2008-04-01 01:07 UTC

Thanks for this info! :)

AlexSchroeder 2008-04-01 06:07 UTC

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2008-01-24 Xbox 360 is back

The broken Xbox 360 (“red ring of death”) arrived yesterday! Cool.

I reconnected the box, fixed my wireless settings, went online, and saw that I had received seven messages. Two of those were people in my friends list that had also gotten the “red ring of death”.



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2008-01-25 Passport

I’m exageratin I’m in the process of organizing a new passport. Birth certificate, proof of citizenship, residence confirmation, pictures, old passport, marriage certificate, name change certificate – and all I get for this is a new EU passport with a crappy chip that has been disparaged all over by the international community when Dutch researchers cracked it. Too bad I’ve been too lazy to follow BruceSchneier’s advice back in 2006: Renew Your Passport Now!

My father used to call it Papierkrieg – the Paper War.

That’s how I feel.


Comments on 2008-01-25 Passport

I remember when Robin was getting a new passport a couple of years ago when we planned on going over to Sweden. And it was a nightmare. I was use to get a passport issues within a couple of days, but over here it took weeks to do.

Good luck with your paper work and everything :)

Christa 2008-01-25 10:42 UTC


At the moment everything seems to be going according to plan. I get the best service from the national registry in Iceland, by the way. There, I can just write an Email asking for my birth certificate and they send me both a scanned copy immediately and a paper copy by mail. Free of charge.

The residency confirmation is about 10 minutes by foot and costs CHF 20. Thank you Switzerland.

AlexSchroeder 2008-01-25 11:05 UTC

I envy you. British bureaucracy is….. welll, let’s just say there’s a reason why we queue so much :)

I’m no fan of this whole “chips with everything” approach to identity cards, passports and the like. Trust should never be placed in technology nor the people who make it. It’s far too easily cracked, too easily faked and too easily subject to breakage and error. If it has to exist at all, it should be design on Open Source principles too, but this is one time when I’d rather see a lo-tech solution. With the new passports I feel that they’re spending an awful lot of money to solve the wrong problem.

greywulf 2008-01-25 12:10 UTC

Alex - were you born in Iceland? Or are they just hosting your birth certificate? :p As for the implants in ID cards, passports and other possible and impossible sources, it’s becoming an obsession. And it’s silly. The reasons they give are simply not valid and I wish that the British government could leave that behind and just hand over a decent ID card. That’s all we need anyways.

Christa 2008-01-25 14:07 UTC

Yes, I was born in Reykjavík. Thus, forever and always, I will have to get my birth certificates from there. :)

I think the chips are just an example of the corrupting influence of capital on politics. There’s a company that can produce chips. There’s a vague connection to “security”. People feel insecure. Thus, this company sends lobbyists to convince the government. Unfortunately for the rest of us, those that feel that we’re just fine, or that a cheap lo-tech solution would do just fine thank you, we don’t send lobbyists. We don’t even collect money to send a lobbyist because we think it’s just damn fine as-is. But the particulars of the situation will therefore always encourage change towards expensive and complicated solutions to simple problems.

And the only voice to ever argue against these systems don’t do it to defend our rights but to reduce the budget. Usually that means that if you vote for them, you also vote for a big baggage of crappy asocial ideology.

Sad, but I don’t have a simple solution. :(

AlexSchroeder 2008-01-25 14:15 UTC

Wow…Reykjavik…I thought you were born in Switzerland. Well, there you go. I if anyone should know that the current “home country” doesn’t always mean that it also is your native country :p

And I think that this whole thing around ID cards and the “chips” will solve itself. Who knows, we might get hit by a meteorite by tomorrow afternoon. Problem solved :)

Christa 2008-01-27 00:12 UTC

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2008-01-26 Oblivion

Yesterday I played a bit of Oblivion again after a long time. It was ok. I re-learnt that my character is truly an archer assassin. It doesn’t pay to get into melee. Just take that glacier bow and shoot the arrows with +15 frost damage and × 3 multiplier because I’m sneaking. Too bad my vampire is not strong enough to actually carry lots of loot. I’m always at the limit. That’s very annoying.

All in all, however, it was not as cool as playing a multi-player game online.


Comments on 2008-01-26 Oblivion

I spent about a day trying to get all the ingredients for a vampirism cure and healed myself. Now I regret not having the life detect/night vision combo spell. It was extremely useful in those dungeons. On the other hand, I can walk in broad daylight without burning myself so that’s a plus.

NoufalIbrahim 2008-01-30 06:34 UTC

What, you found five greater crystals or whatever they’re called in a single day? I think I’m still missing four!

And I never got to use those two spells you mentioned. Right now I’m a sneak & bow specialist, so I just move slowly, retreat if I’m too close, and shoot them for × 3 damage… How exactly are you fighting in the dungeons? Perhaps I’m just used to the dungeons being dark and dreary. Or I’m too damn weak to carry the loot even if I saw it… :groan:

AlexSchroeder 2008-01-30 09:29 UTC

I bought the grand soul gems which I wanted from various magic purveyors throughout Cyrodil. They’re almost always there. Around 700 gold pieces for one. You can also steal a few from the mages guilds if you have good lockpicking skills.

The power is called “reign of terror” or “eye of the night” or something. It’s a spell you get when you’re a vampire. You get really good night vision and detect life (so you can see opponents through walls) for about 3 minutes. I pick up a good stout blade, sneak up on people in the dark and whack them (similar to what you do I think but I’m not a ranged fighter). After that, I take out the heavy armoury (magical swords) and chop them to bits. The initial blow drains them of the most part of their health. If you poison your blade, you get an added advantage. The weight/loot problem is there with me too. I keep a lot of feather potions (flax + vension with second level alchemy) and keep drinking them to carry more than my actual limit.

NoufalIbrahim 2008-01-30 09:51 UTC

Also, if you enjoy sneaking, you should definitely join the dark brotherhood. Lots of stealth missions. I shall see you at the sanctuary brother.

NoufalIbrahim 2008-01-30 10:04 UTC

Be careful. There’s a sword you can find that’s called something like Souldrinker or somesuch. Whatever you do, don't use the sword while you have grand soul crystals in your inventory. The sword automatically casts ‘soulbind’ on your enemies, and oh-so-helpfully fills up all your grand crystals making them completely useless for the vampirism cure.

– Marco 2008-01-30 10:15 UTC

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2008-01-27 Elenkar

Divination magic led the party to Twain. They were trying to figure out who was setting fire to the barns. There, they discovered that elves are setting fire to the barn! They captured them, talked to them, and the one called Corleon agreed to lead the party to their camp in the forest of Nin. On the way, unfortunately, the party was attacked by two Cockatrice, and one of them turned Corleon to stone! Needless to say, negotiations were difficult. At least the elves agreed to a ten day truce. The party has ten days to find the statue.

Pretty creepy to find that cockatrice can turn you to stone in this remote area where nobody knows how to cast /Stone to Flesh/… And remember that somebody told the party that there are two gorgons living in the Gaskar hills…

As for the keys, they discovered that Winifred Baum’s wife is wearing one of the keys! A present from her cheating husband…

The party also met the Minx brothers Borden & Garsen. It turns out that they found Winifred Baum’s pendant with some Crushed Skull orcs and had sold it to Tinker in Pembrose (for 500 gp), who then sold it to Regis Baum for 2000 gp… (Ok, he also had to pay Angus Carl to get it done.)

I think the characters are frustrated because both Lord Kyle and Elenkar seem to be incompetent.


Challenges overcome:

  • four elven snipers CR 3
  • two cockatrice CR 3
  • talk to Elenkar and convince her to delay CR 7

Level 7: 5250 ⇒ 1312 per person Level 6: 6300 ⇒ 1575 per person

25157 + 1312 = 26469 (Sor-7)
22512 + 1312 = 23824 (Cle-7)
23382 (Brb-7)
20686 + 1575 = 22261 (Drd-3/Clr-3 + new level)
18000 + 1575 = 19575 (Rng-6)
10000 + 1312*5/7 = 10937 (Rog-5)


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2008-01-28 Death of a Cat

Sihlfeldstrasse Warning: This post contains gory details.

Yesterday four of us were walking towards Bottega Berta along Sihlfeldstrasse (two lanes with tons of traffic). I noticed a black & white cat under the parked cars that seemed to shy away from people like us. As we approach, the cat leaps onto the road, cars come, a crunching sound, the car drives on, the cat tries to get up but obviously a lot of stuff is broken. The cat tries again, stronger now. And then the cat tries to jump. Does a sommersault. Starts flopping back and forth, leaping up to a foot into the air, like a puppet being yanked around by a crazy puppeteer. It’s a silent death dance we’re seeing. Marco stops the cars. At last the death throes have an end. The electric ghost is gone. The cat is dead. Marco takes the dead body and deposits it on the other side of the road.

The entire thing was so bizzarre I didn’t know what to think. Was the cat dead and the brain was just just sending a few last intoxicated signals? Why was there no sound? How long until the owner’s discovered that their cat had died? How long had the cat been in that family? Did the family have children? Would they be searching the neighbourhood? How easy it is to die. How frail everybody is. Imagine a child being caught by a car. How mercilessly the metal hammers roar down the road, their cold gaze catching all obstacles and marking them for certain death.

By the time I recovered it was all over.

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Comments on 2008-01-28 Death of a Cat

Yes, it was a gruesome, bloody death. If you are squeamish, don’t read on. It gets worse, but I’m making a point.

I’m certain the cat felt very little. It was bleeding heavily through its mouth and nose, enough to spray blood across the road and coat its fur (I had to wash my hands in a fountain, MacBeth style). I interpret this to mean that the bleeding came from its brain, and that its death was mostly painless. I prefer to think that, anyway.

Secondly, in New Zealand I hunt rabbits. I use a .22 calibre rifle (which is small, but big enough to punch a hole through). Ideally, you hit a rabbit in the head. It’s the most painless death you can achieve, and it jumps and somersaults about bleeding through the mouth and nose, just like the cat did. I am certain the cat felt very little. I neglected to mention this on Sunday night as it was inappropriate.

– Marco 2008-01-28 23:48 UTC

The violent death of animals by our transportation systems stirs similar emotions and thoughts in me.

The last comment reminds me of the debate about the guillotine, and the myth of Lavoisier conducting an experiment about brain activity during his own execution during the French Revolution.

AaronHawley 2008-01-29 04:25 UTC

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2008-01-30 OSX Insomnia

My Mac Mini will no longer sleep. If I send it to sleep, it will wake up again after a second. Why is that, and how can I stop it?

For a while I thought it was because I had enabled Personal Web Sharing (aka. Apache 1.3). Then I thought it was because of the SlimServer software running on it. But disabling either of these services and rebooting did not help, and I’m tired of searching for the virtual needle in the crappy haystack.


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2008-01-31 SQL Riddles

I recently saw this question on #sql and it reminded me of the two or three “SQL riddles” we sent around at the company many years ago:

There is a table called GOALS with the columns PLAYER, GOALS, and GROUP. Write a single SELECT statement that prints the top scorer in every group.

    PLAYER      GOALS      GROUP
---------- ---------- ----------
         1          2          1
         1          2          1
         2          3          1
         2          2          1
         2          2          3

Expected result:

    PLAYER      GOALS      GROUP
---------- ---------- ----------
         2          5          1
         2          2          3

An answer was posted on #sql, but I really want to figure this out myself, because I know I solved this stuff before. :)


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2008-01-31 Web Design

Time Breakdown of Modern Web Design

via ThomasWaldmann who mentioned it on IRC, via Patrick Logan on his blog, via James Robertson on his blog, from Michael Vilain who offers “massage chair work at the Palo Alto Whole Foods”.

But if you google for “time breakdown of modern webdesign” you’ll find other copies of the image. One of them was marked ‘© 2006 Alain “IE users must DIE” Foreman’. Some more Googling and looking at URLs of dead links, I finally found what I think is the source image: The Church of Poisoned Minds 2006-06-21!

Note the offensive copyright line that got stripped eventually. :]

I take pride in doing a tiny piece of research every now and then. ;)


Comments on 2008-01-31 Web Design


Oh, that’s 100% completely, utterly and totally accurate - probably a first for a pie chart :)

greywulf 2008-01-31 12:57 UTC

LOL…this is very true. I like the bit about trying to get things to work in the flippin’ Explorer :p

Christa 2008-01-31 13:04 UTC

Yes, I’ve been there. My workmate Thomas was spitting tacks at Javascript just this week.

– Marco 2008-01-31 16:37 UTC

I also like the WTF measure.


Posted by forcer on the EmacsChannel… :)

AlexSchroeder 2008-02-05 16:23 UTC

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2008-01 Book Club

What: Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy.

When: January 30, 2008 – a Wednesday.

Wikipedia: Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy.

First proposed in September 2007. Classic reading, a bit closer to home both in space and time than Genji (Uli). I think we should allow a bit more time for this than the usual 4 weeks (Karina).

Supporters: Alex, Uli, Karina, Arantza, Ros.


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